3 weeks ago

Catch a sneak peek of A PLACE TO CALL OUR OWN!

Can't wait till release day?  The newest addition to The Friessens big family romance series is coming soon, but you can grab a sneak peek of A PLACE TO CALL OUR OWN today! 

Brad Friessen knows he has to sell the ranch, but not everyone is on board with his decision or open to a new beginning. He has a plan: Find a nice place with some land where he can retire—but for his children, life has suddenly become much more complicated.

Katy and Steven have called the ranch home and aren’t inclined to see the adventure in their upcoming move. While Emily, Jack and Trevor, and Fletcher are somewhat open to the possibilities, what Brad doesn’t know is that Katy and Steven had a plan, too. The life they’ve always wanted is the kind of life Brad and Emily have, with the ranch, the land, and eventually more children.

Finding a cheap, rundown house to rent wasn’t in the cards for Katy and Steven, nor has it been easy for either to be practical when their dream of having a ranch of their own to run, to raise a family on, seems to be moving ever further out of reach.

As the countdown begins to the date they have to leave, to the sale of the one place they’ve all called home for what’s seemed like forever, Katy and Steven, Brad and Emily, and the rest of the Friessen family might just be crazy enough to find a way for them all to have what they truly want.

A PLACE TO CALL OUR OWN (The Friessens, Book 28) is available for pre-sale at:

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Chapter 1

If Brad were anyone else, he would likely have understood why people assumed that he was being forced to sell as a result of having had a gun to his head, that this was nothing but a knee-jerk reaction to protect his family. But they were wrong.

Selling the Friessen ranch felt akin to stepping off the dock without a life jacket, not knowing what would be next for them. It was exciting, terrifying, and something he’d never planned for. If this had happened ten or even twenty years earlier, he likely wouldn’t have been so inclined to sell and walk, considering this was all he’d known, but for the first time in Brad’s life, he truly believed he was now completely, one hundred percent in charge of his future, his direction, and the choices he made for his family. He now had a blank canvas and no idea where he and his family would go.

It was chaotic. There would be a monetary windfall, but not everyone in his family was as open to the adventure or to what was yet to come. They weren’t ready to accept the unknown and just go with it. But then, how many years had it taken him to get to a point where he was comfortable with just letting things be as they were?

“So you think that’s the last of it today?” Emily said. “Because seriously, Brad, I’m getting tired of keeping the house this ridiculously show-home freaking clean, with not even a glass on the counter or in the sink. Do you have any idea how difficult that is, considering everyone who lives here? You know, I’d like to walk into my living room and relax, curl up with a book and a tea, and not worry about leaving a mark on the coffee table—which has never been this polished. Then I’d like to walk up the stairs and see all the family photos, the personal touches that make this our home.

“I still can’t believe you listened to that ridiculous realtor who insisted we had to stage the place,” she continued. “There’s no personalization, and it’s so impossibly neat that no one is comfortable. I mean, what difference is this really going to make for people coming in here? They should see it as a home, our home. I’ve had enough. I just want my house back, without the endless interruptions and strangers going through our—no, my personal things.” Emily pulled in a breath, and he could see the toll this was taking on her, having a bunch of strangers parading through their house, their property, day in and day out. Worse, they had to keep the kids from touching or moving anything.

He knew Emily was rattled, and he just watched her as she pulled open the fridge and then closed it, tossing her hands in the air. He took in her red and black flannel shirt and faded blue jeans. Her hair was clipped up in a messy bun, which had dried with a little more natural wave than she liked, but then, she’d had to hurry out of the shower after he received a call from their realtor about a last-minute showing for someone who was in town only briefly.

“We got an offer,” he finally said. He should have interrupted Emily earlier, but he was still considering what the realtor had said to him about it being almost perfect. What was it about that word, “almost”?

“What?”

He had expected shock, but instead she seemed confused. He shrugged, hearing the sound of a car door outside and knowing Steven was home. He recognized the sound of his pickup. He said nothing, instead pulling his hand over his chin and feeling the scrape of whiskers. He hadn’t had time to shave after checking on the cattle and seeing that Emily and the kids were out of the house so Pam, their realtor, could show the house without anyone breathing down her client’s neck. That was something she insisted on, the one thing that had truly bothered Emily.

She gestured toward him. “Brad, come on. You can’t just say something like that and then nothing at all.”

He walked over to the fridge, taking in the kitchen, which was the same as it had been when he was a little kid. Pam had said the dated layout would make this place a tough sell. He pulled open the fridge and reached for a can of beer, then took his time popping the top. He knew his wife would likely snatch it from his hands if he didn’t tell her what he was thinking soon.

“That last-minute showing, apparently they made an offer.” He lifted the can and took a swallow of the light lager, seeing the shock on Emily’s face. He wasn’t sure if she was happy, sad, or what. It was exactly what he was feeling.

“Shoes off or on?” Steven called out. Of course, Brad hadn’t heard the familiar squeak of the screen door at the front, as that was one of the first things the realtor had insisted he take care of. After some WD-40, it was good to go, though he knew she’d expected him to replace the old door with something new and shiny.

“Off!” Emily called out without pulling her gaze from him.

“What kind of offer?” Emily crossed her arms. He could see the tension that had seemed to be part of her since he’d listed the ranch.

“A decent one that comes with a lot of strings, a lot of everything. I’m still trying to get my head around it.”

“Wow, you wouldn’t believe what happened today,” Steven said as he joined them in the kitchen. “I’m driving down the road, and since switching to that new cell phone provider, I’ve been getting endless wrong numbers, which has totally pissed me off, since they assured me it was a new number and not a recycled one. Anyway, I kind of decided to have some fun with it. This guy phones with a Montana area code and says, ‘Hey, Ger, this is Fred,’ in that Midwestern accent. Instead of saying he’s got the wrong number, I say, ‘Yeah?’ with a ton of that Montana attitude. So he says, ‘Hey, listen, I kind of have a problem here. I wonder if you saw this invoice that just came across my desk that says we owe a balloon payment of $14,500 in interest on that business line of credit when it was supposed to be only $8,000. You know someone’s ass is on the line for this, because this kind of expenditure was never accounted for, so what the hell happened? Did Fran approve this? I don’t want this blowing up in my face and having to explain to the boss why Sales is way over budget again.’

“So by now I’m in this, and I just couldn’t resist. As I’m pulling up to a red light, I can either come clean and tell the guy I’m messing with him or keep going, so I think to myself, I need a little fun today, and I decide to just go with it. I shrug and say, ‘Hey, no idea. Listen, Fred, I know the bank originally wanted $15,600, which was highway robbery, so I made them rework the numbers and got them down to $8,012. With last year’s overage, they agreed to write off those twelve dollars, in typical big-bank generosity, and say we owe an even eight thousand, so I don’t know what to tell you.’”

Brad stared at Steven, who was now in the fridge and pulling out a can of beer, construction debris all over his dingy blue T-shirt, his work khakis covered in sawdust. He half expected Emily to tell him to go outside and brush it off, but she too was staring at him, amused by his twisty sense of humor, which often came out of nowhere.

“The guy is still on the phone and hasn’t figured out I’m not this mysterious Ger, so he says to me, ‘Well, sounds like you have a handle on this. You take care of it, and call Fran and fix this, and then call me back and let me know it’s all straightened out.’” Steven took a swallow of his beer and started laughing. “And I’m thinking to myself, like, there’s no way I’m letting this guy toss Ger under the bus to save his own ass, even though I don’t have a clue who Ger is. I’m doing my very best not to bust a gut laughing, too, because I realize this guy has no idea who he’s talking to or what’s going on. So I say to him, ‘No, Fred, you listen up. I’m not having this crap fall back on me. You go talk to Fran, work it out with her, and find out who screwed up, and then you call me back.’ When the light turns green, the guy grumbles a bit but finally says fine and hangs up, and I just kill myself laughing. Now some guy named Fred has no clue what’s going on in his company, and I’m imagining the conversation with Fran and this mysterious Ger, who I feel personally owes me because I’ve just saved his ass…” Steven trailed off with the beer halfway to his mouth. He pulled the can away and gestured. “What’s going on?”

There it was. Emily blinked, pulled in a breath, and gave her head a shake. “Brad was just saying he had an offer on the ranch.” She shifted her gaze between Steven and him, then inclined her head and really took him in with her blue eyes.

“What? You sold the ranch.”

Yup, “shock” was an understatement.

He heard the door and more footsteps. “No, I had an offer, is all, and was just considering all the aspects of it, as it comes with some things I didn’t expect.”

“Our home sold?” Becky said as she came in, her hair long and loose. She wore her trademark leggings and a tank with a hoodie, as if she had taken up jogging again, but he knew she hadn’t. Then there was Katy, who was carrying his granddaughter, Gilly. She was a little more put together in blue jeans and a fall coat, her blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. Gilly was quiet, as if she’d just woken up, and then there were Fletcher and Jack, who were now rummaging in the cupboard for anything to eat, their after-school ritual.

“I kind of wanted to have a chance to discuss this with your mom first,” Brad said, taking in Emily, who was reaching for the bag of cookies Jack had grabbed and swatted his hand. He was almost as tall as Emily now, and Brad could see so much of himself in his son. Fletcher was still a few inches shorter. At least they’d all taken off their shoes, a first.

“I’m starting dinner soon,” she said.

“And I’ll be starving by the time we eat,” Jack said. “What’s for dinner, anyway?” he added, reaching for the cookies again.

This time Emily let out a breath, giving in, and handed him the bag as she turned her gaze back to Brad. “Evidently, that’s not going to happen,” she said. “So what about this offer? Is it a lowball?”

He took in how quiet everyone was, even Jack and Fletcher, two dark-haired boys in their jeans and T-shirts, shoving cookies in their mouths. “Well, no,” he said. “It’s actually more than I asked.”

A lot more, especially considering he’d listed the ranch at almost ten million dollars, with the expectation it would likely take a long time to sell. He wondered if Emily had stopped breathing. Everyone was trying to wrap their head around him getting his asking price.

“You were offered more than 9.9 million?” Steven said. Meanwhile, Katy was quiet, and the two exchanged a glance that reached out to each other.

“I was offered an extra five hundred thousand for quick possession,” Brad said. It would make up for him having to pay off all the ranch hands, because whoever wanted his land was some corporate guy who didn’t want a working ranch.

“How quick are we talking?” Emily jumped in, but Brad was stuck on the shock on Becky’s face, and he wasn’t sure what to make of the expression on Katy’s, considering she and Steven were the two who had never been happy about him selling.

“Two weeks,” Brad said. “All we’d have to do is pack up our clothes and furniture, find a place, and move.”

The prospective buyer had even offered to take care of getting rid of anything they didn’t want to take with them. Maybe that was what bothered him so much, having everything that was theirs reduced to something someone saw as disposable.

This time, Emily glanced over at the kids. Steven was leaning against the fridge, and his expression seemed off. He was likely considering the possible sale, as he hadn’t said anything yet.

“Well, that sounds like the perfect offer, so what’s the problem?” Emily said. Brad had never been able to hide anything from her. She always knew when he was having trouble with something.

“Maybe I expected a family to buy it,” he said. “I expected someone to run this ranch the way it’s always been run, someone who wants all of this and sees it the way I do. This is big business, a good business, a good life—but that’s not what they want, not in that way.”

He still couldn’t figure out how to explain to his family that the buyer was some corporate foreign national who wanted to bulldoze everything, sell the livestock and the horses. All of this that he loved, that his family had loved, would be gone. It had taken a lifetime to build and would be gone in an instant.

“Well, what would they want the ranch for, then?” Steven finally jumped in, and Brad could see he wasn’t happy about the offer.

“For the land,” he replied. “They’d lease it out, use the timber and water rights. Take your pick. It wouldn’t be about this working ranch.”

Everyone looked at each other, and he could see the minute they understood what he was saying.

“So they don’t want this ranch to run. They want to tear it down,” Steven said.

Brad didn’t miss the shock on Emily’s face. Even Becky, who’d never really loved this place the way he did, the way the rest of them did, looked startled. Katy was giving all her attention to Gilly as if she wasn’t really interested, but he knew better. “Yeah, everything,” he replied.

“The house, the barn?” Jack cut in.

He took in his son and nodded. “They would tear it down.”

“What about the horses, all the cows? Grandpa, what will happen to all of them?” Fletcher said. He had chocolate at the side of his mouth from the cookie.

Brad wasn’t sure he wanted to answer. He just shook his head. Emily hissed. This was the one thing he hadn’t expected. “It’s not for sure yet. It’s just an offer,” he said—but at the same time, this kind of offer might not come around again.

“But you’re considering it,” Katy said. She was looking at her mom but then dragged her bright blue eyes over to him. There it was, her attachment to this place. He had always known Katy loved the ranch. This was the life he knew she’d always wanted.

“I am,” he replied. “I have to, because as I told all of you, it’s time to move on. But before you all go off about what’s going to happen to the ranch, let me point out that I haven’t agreed to the offer. At the same time, you need to understand that whoever buys this isn’t going to run the place as I do. It will become their place to run as they see fit. And we, all of us, will move on and start a new life, a new era, someplace else. We need to cut the cord, so to speak. We can’t have one foot still here while trying to build a new life.”

That sounded great, but he wished he could get past his own vision of someone else loving this place the way he had, as all he could see was everything he loved about the ranch being completely destroyed.


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